When he died of cancer in September at the age of 67, the NCAA lost a true "agent of change," which Brand vowed to be when he took over the NCAA on Jan. 2003.
But for all of Brand's deeds, his greatest accomplishment was how gradually realigned the NCAA's priorities. The two presidents preceding him were a former athletic director and former basketball coach, and the perception, right or wrong, was that athletics trumped academics. The arrival of Brand, a former philosophy professor, brought a shift in, well, philosophy. A priority was placed on educating athletes, on running a clean program, on checks and balances.
Brand did not solve all of the NCAA's problems -- the BCS is still with us and men's basketball remains a cesspool -- but he claimed a seat at the table for the professors and university presidents who had long had their voices muted by the shouts from coaches and athletic directors bent on wining no matter the cost. He emboldened people on the academic side to stand up when they saw wrongdoing and to demand more of the athletes and the coaches who brought them into higher education. This sea change has been so refreshing that is impossible to imagine the NCAA naming anyone but another educator to succeed Brand. There appears no turning back from the course he charted.
Brand's legacy will include an unfairly large chapter on his dealings with
Two years later, after he took over as NCAA president, Brand began making that same clarification on a much larger on scale. The result has been a titanic shift in the way the NCAA does business. That should be his legacy, and it should earn him Sportsman of the Year.